How to mix music: What to tackle first

There are many guides out there about mixing but none of them really takes you through a step by step walkthrough on what you should do when mixing. Our goal for the next few articles in this series is to guide you on how you can tackle mixing a song from start to finish. There are no right or wrong methods here as we know that every producer is different. However, we hope that our guide can push you towards something productive and meaningful.

If you missed our last post on mixing preparation, you can read it here. This week, we focus on 4 things you can get done during the first hour of mixing.

#1. Start from zero

One of the most productive things you can do, although counter-intuitive at times, is to remove all plug-ins and bring all faders down to zero and start from there. First, start by getting a good static balance for your overall mix. That means, bringing up every fader and adjust the volume and panning to what you think feels right. Some mixing engineers like to mix vocal first and work their way down to the rhythm section and some like to build their mix from bottom up. However you want to do it, spend a good amount of time playing around with the balance of your mix. As you bring a fader up at one go, listen to how that affects the composition and mood of the song, and control the itch to reach for an EQ or compressor!

#2. Filter it out

Once you find that you are at a happy place with your musical balance, start adding EQ filters (high pass and low pass) to your different instruments and tracks. For example, you may want to put a high pass filter to clean up the low end on your vocal tracks, drum overheads, and synth patches etc. You will be surprised how much both HPF and LPF can do to give you a tighter mix.

#3. Print and restart

This is probably the hardest thing to do, but sometimes can be so worth it. At the 30 minute mark, or whenever you feel like you got a decent balance going, bounce (or print) your mix, save a new copy of your session, and restart again from zero. Repeat that another two or three times. At the hour mark, review the two or three versions of the mix you created and go with the one that sounds best. This process gives you the opportunity to try things you never thought you would and forces you to be creative from the get-go.

#4. Take breaks

Try to take a 2 minute break every 15-20 minutes. Your ears tire out easily and a quick 2 minute break will help prevent ear fatigue in the long run.

Reuben Raman Content & Community Manager at Splice